Stevia never had it so good. This once maligned ingredient, hidden among the dietary supplements, is expected to reach $2 billion by the end of 2011, according to Mintel. Sales have literally gone from nil in food and beverages to $95 million in 2009. "The FDA's approval of stevia in food and drinks opened the door for this market's explosion," states David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. "New product activity has accelerated in recent years, and since most categories with stevia applications remain untapped, we expect many more stevia-infused product introductions in the next few years."
According to SPINS, the category with the sweetest growth was carbonated beverages, which tripled from June 2008 to June 2009. Within three months of the FDA's bequeath of GRAS status for stevia, sales for this sector tripled by June 2009.
Despite the soaring growth rates, not all consumers are entirely familiar with stevia — nearly 70 per cent have not yet heard of it, while bitter aftertaste is still a concern among taste testers (Mintel). Though recently, the tabletop brand Sun Crystals introduced 20 per cent stevia, 80 per cent sugar. The brand will meet the definition of 'natural' and serve as a transition product for consumers looking for fewer carbohydrates and calories, but hesitant to convert to 100 per cent stevia, or who are wary of combination products of stevia and alternative sweeteners that are not bona fide natural.